Honoring baseball's military veterans

Honoring baseball’s military veterans

Veteran’s Day is upon us once more, so it is only fitting to honor baseball’s military veterans today. From the Civil War, our nation’s greatest struggle, to the rice paddies of Vietnam, there have been dozens of baseball men that have fought alongside the “common Joe”.

Some of the names of the men who’ve served our nation in its greatest time of need you will know, others you will not. The list of names is too exhaustive to name them all, but we tip our caps all the same. Here are five men who’ve served with distinction.

Morgan Bulkeley – Civil War

Honoring baseball's military veterans

First president of the NL and Civil War veteran, Morgan Bulkeley. (Photo courtesy of: National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Morgan Bulkeley never played in a game, but the Hartford-based businessman was the first president of the National League. Bulkeley would only hold the National League’s presidency for one season in 1876. Not wanting to make baseball his life’s work, he walked away from the post.

In 1937, Bulkeley was enshrined in the Hall of Fame with Ban Johnson, the first president of the American League.

Bulkeley has the distinction of being the only Baseball Hall of Fame member to serve during the American Civil War. Even though he came from money, Morgan Bulkeley and his brother Charles both enlisted in the Union Army in 1861. An unusual choice given these were the sons of Aetna Insurance co-founder, Eliphalet Bulkeley.

For those that aren’t up to date on their Civil War history, the unusual nature of the Bulkeley boys’ enlistment lies in money. During the Civil War, a person could buy their way out of the draft and pay for another person to serve in their place. The Bulkeley boys choosing to enlist was the exception to the rule, make no doubts about it. For Morgan Bulkeley’s brother Charles, this decision would seal his fate. He would not survive the war.

For Morgan Bulkeley though, he spent his time under the command of Gen. George McClellan in the 13th New York Regiment. It must have been a shock to go from a life of extravagance, to marching around the dirty, dusty countryside in pursuit of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. This is exactly the life Bulkeley lived from the years 1861-1865.

Grover Alexander – WWI

Alexander is a name that rests among the greatest names in the history of pitching. What you might not have known, however, is Alexander also saw live combat in World War I.

Prior to the war, Grover Alexander broke into the big leagues in 1911 with Philadelphia. From that time on, he was one of the most dominant pitchers in the National League. He led the NL in wins five times between the years 1911-1917, posting three consecutive 30+ win seasons from 1915-1917. On top of those 30-win seasons, he also posted sub 2.00 ERA in each of those three years as well. He did all of this while war threatened to consume the entire world.

The United States had managed to keep a “veneer” of neutrality for most of WWI, but in the spring of 1917, peacetime was over. The U.S. was now on a war footing with Germany, and with an army that had been drastically reduced in strength over time, needed fresh recruits.

In 1917, and for the first time since the Civil War, the nation’s men were subject to conscription into the armed forces. This is the avenue by which Grover Alexander found his way into the Army.

Three games into the 1918 season, Alexander, at the rank of Sergeant found himself among the killing fields in France. A member of the 342nd Field Artillery Battalion. It was at his post, while under an enemy artillery barrage, that Alexander suffered severe hearing damage from a nearby shell explosion. This explosion also left Alexander with epilepsy.

It was 99 years ago today, that peace was reached between the belligerents of WWI, and by the spring of 1919 Alexander was back at his old post. On the hill, toeing the rubber as a member of the Chicago Cubs.

Warren Spahn – WWII

Honoring baseball's military veterans

All of Warren Spahn’s 363 career wins came after he won the Purple Heart in WWII. (Photo courtesy of: Dailydsports.com)

Spahn, a fresh-faced rookie in 1942, got his first taste of big league ball with the Boston Braves. He made two starts over four appearances in 1942, and by December he would be finding himself in Army green.

Spahn was one of the “luckier” baseball players of his generation in that his career was interrupted at the beginning, rather than during his prime years. Ted Williams, Bob Feller and Joe DiMaggio are just a few players that lost some of their peak years.

It was in December of 1944 that Warren Spahn would find himself fighting for his life during the Battle of the Bulge. This was the last gasp offensive of by the German war machine. Spahn, a combat engineer, was part of the under-equipped troops that were left to face the onslaught.

Spahn did several interviews after the war, in which he would recall the bitter cold and terrible conditions in which they fought. He has also recounted how fierce the fighting was while his unit tried to break free from the German forces that had surrounded them.

When the 1944 German winter offensive was stopped cold, Spahn’s unit was sent to Remagen. It was here, while working on the Ludendorff Bridge in March 1945, Spahn would get hit in the foot with shrapnel. This would be the end of the line for his time at the front.

It earned him a Purple Heart, but it was an incredible twist of good fortune for Spahn. The following day, the entire bridge collapsed into the river below taking over 30 men to their untimely demise. For his actions at Remagen, Spahn earned a battle-field commission of 2nd Lieutenant.

Ted Williams – Korean War

Ted Williams is all legend. This man was the game’s best hitter when he was called away to service during WWII like so many others.

Williams was drafted into service in 1941, but was exempted due to having a dependent mother, but he would later enlist in the Marines in 1942. After completion of his triple-crown season in ’42, Williams was off to training. It was during the years 1943-1945 that Williams would earn his pilot’s wings. The war would end before he would see any active combat.

However, the 1950’s brought with it a new fight. The Korean War.

Of the 1.8 million soldiers that fought in Korea, Ted Williams was one. Immediately Williams was back at flight school learning the controls of the F9F Grumman jet fighter. His involvement in the conflict would consume the majority of his 1952 and 1953 season’s.

In Korea, Williams was the wing man of future space traveler, John Glenn. In Glenn’s estimation, the pair flew together on about half of Williams’ 39 combat flights. Glenn would later recall that Williams was a very active pilot, and an excellent one at that.

Ted Williams was right in the line of fire taking on enemies in the air, and he almost was a goner on a few occasions. On one of those occasions, Williams’ plane was on fire after being badly hit. The landing gear on his smoking wreck was inoperable. The only option left was to attempt a belly landing. In true Ted Williams fashion, he did what he always did. He stayed calm, and he stuck the landing. Williams escaped the cockpit just moments before his mangled plane was engulfed in flames.

Al Bumbry – Vietnam War

Honoring baseball's military veterans

Al Bumbry never lost a man during his time leading troops in Vietnam. (Photo courtesy of: Getty Images)

Bumbry has the distinction of being one of only 10 major league players to fight in the Vietnam War. He would win the Bronze Star for his actions under fire as a platoon commander.

The most remarkable thing about Bumbry’s time in combat, is that he never lost a man under his command. This takes on even more significance when you realize the amount of responsibility on the young lieutenant’s plate. In an interview with The Washington Times, Bumbry said, “I was a tank platoon leader in Vietnam for a year. It was all very stressful. I had nine vehicles and 45 men in my platoon, and I was responsible for all of our activities.”

Bumbry, like the millions of others like him, returned home a changed man. He also returned a better ballplayer, to which he credits an accelerated maturing process forged in the fires of Vietnam. Though Bumbry floundered in his first 35 minor league games before being called to active duty in the Army, when he finally returned, he went on a tear through the minor leagues.

In 1972, Al Bumbry was called up to the big club in Baltimore where he played in nine games. The following year, 1973, Bumbry would solidify a spot in the Orioles lineup, and win the AL Rookie of the Year award.

Following his RoY campaign in 1973, Bumbry would firmly entrench himself as the everyday center fielder in Baltimore. From the years 1973-1985, Al Bumbry would put together a respectable career in MLB. He was a 1980 All-Star, a (.281) lifetime hitter and a key member of the Orioles’ 1983 World Series championship team.

 

(feature photo courtesy of: fadeawaypodcast.com)

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Washington Nationals 2018

Washington Nationals team profile

After a successful regular season, the Nationals came up short in the postseason once again. The franchise still has not won a postseason series. This year looked to be their year, as their roster had few holes in it especially after bolstering their bullpen. However, Game 5 in the NLDS slipped through their fingers, and now Washington is in a state of perplexity. What can they possibly do at this point that they have not already done?

The managerial carousal

The Washington Nationals fired another manager at the end of 2017. This time, Dusty Baker was the victim despite winning 192 games in two seasons and winning the NL East both years. He is also the third manager to be fired in five years in Washington.

Washington Nationals 2018

Dusty Baker is the latest example of how Washington is insecure at the manager role (Photo from AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

What makes the situation interesting is that they have still won their division four times in seven years. Not only that, but two of the three managers (Davey Johnson and Matt Williams) have won the NL manager of the year during their tenure in Washington.

Is the management really the problem? It is understandable why the front office points to the skipper role as the issue with their teams. This is apparent in the fact that there are no glaring issues in the roster. The bullpen was by far the weakest aspect of the team at the beginning of the season, but were able to make it an asset through trades.

Replacing the manager will not fix the Nationals’ issues. Dave Martinez has accumulated a lot of experience under the wing of Joe Maddon in Tampa Bay and Chicago. However, he still has a lot to learn as a manager seeing as this is his first gig. What it is really going to come down to is the Nationals being able to execute in the postseason.

Washington found themselves down 2-1 in the NLDS against the Cubs. They were able to win Game 4 in order to force a fifth and final game, and the offense really showed up when it needed to. The only problem was that Matt Wieters fell apart when it mattered most, and his mistakes cost the Nationals three runs in what ended up being a one run game.

The players need to be held more accountable, rather than thinking that the manager is the problem.

Bryce Harper and free agency

2018 marks the final year on superstar Bryce Harper’s contract, and oh boy will teams be coming out for him this time next year. No matter where he signs, expect for him to surpass Giancarlo Stanton for the largest contract in the sports world.

What has Nationals fans worried is that Harper has been rather aloof when it comes to his status in Washington. Harper asked Washington for a $400 million extension, which the team of course was not able to meet.

This is purely speculative, but it seems Harper made a rather high asking price just to see if the Nationals would meet it. It is hard to think that he expected Washington to pay up that kind of dough. It is very tempting for Harper to test free agency, so why not see if you can get that much?

Harper had to be ecstatic when he heard of Stanton’s record contract. That is because most teams would value Harper over Stanton at this point in time, despite the 59 home runs Stanton hit this year. The precedent of Stanton’s contract may just boost Harper’s value through the roof.

One ridiculous move that will never happen is Washington possibly trading Harper this offseason. Harper has never said out loud that he would like to stay in Washington, so his future there looks murky. With the high possibility of him chasing the money in 2018, why not see what you can get for him this offseason? One season of Harper’s services for a contender could be worth some very valuable prospects in the long run, and Washington should have an eye past 2018. This is especially the case since their current formula can’t seem to get them past the NLDS.

What is in store in 2018 for the Nationals?

Don’t expect a whole lot different in 2018. The NL East is going to be controlled by Washington once again. Brandon Kintzler, Matt Albers and Jayson Werth are some notable names leaving, but the core is still in tact. On top of that, Adam Eaton will be returning from his devastating injury he sustained early in the season.

Washington Nationals 2018

Eaton’s return to Washington will have a large impact. (Photo from MLB.com)

The Nationals ought to target an arm or two in order to bolster their bullpen. Other than that and maybe adding an arm like Jaime Garcia to the rotation, they shouldn’t be too active at the winter meetings barring any big news.

Derek Jeter and the Marlins will be taking a step back next season as the front office has expressed a desire to tear things down and build back up. Miami finished second place in the East despite being 20 games back of the Nationals. The Mets may be making moves this offseason in order to get back into their World Series form from a few years ago, but they are still far behind the Nationals.

The main questions is, who will face Washington in the NLDS? Also, will Dave Martinez make the difference that the front office hopes he can make? Either way, all of the 2018 season is already riding on whether or not they will make it past the NLDS.

The ultimate goal is the World Series obviously. However, they first need to win their first playoff series in franchise history.

 

Featured image from Sports Illustrated

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Modern Era ballot offers renewed hope

Modern Era ballot offers renewed hope

In a significant turn of events, the National Baseball Hall of Fame announced substantial changes in voting on Nov 6. These changes will have a major impact on how the 2018 Hall of Fame class could be comprised. The Modern Era ballot offers renewed hope for several of the game’s elite players, who’ve now been given a second crack at Cooperstown.

The Hall of Fame defines the Modern Era as the span of time from 1970 through 1987. To the layman, this means for a player to be considered in this era, his peak years should mostly fall within that range. This, of course, has serious impact for several players who’ve watched their initial 15-year period of eligibility expire.

Among the names on the newly formed 10-player Modern Era ballot are, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Marvin Miller (executive nominee), Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons, Luis Tiant and Alan Trammell.

Among the players on this list with a career WAR of (50+) are pitchers Luis Tiant (66.1) and Tommy John (62). Also joining this list are position players Alan Trammell (70.4) and Ted Simmons (50.1), respectively.

In my estimation, the no-brainer selections are Alan Trammell, Ted Simmons and Marvin Miller. Trammell deserves it for being among the best short stops ever, Simmons for being among the best catchers ever and Miller for his work as the first MLBPA union head. Miller has a legacy that every player in today’s game owes a serious debt of gratitude.

How voting works

Alan Trammell had a (52.6) WAR between 1980-1989. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

This newly formed selection committee will consist of 16 members. Membership of the Modern Baseball Committee will be a mixture of HoF members, executives and veteran media members (BBWA). Members will be appointed by the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors.

The appointees to the Modern Baseball Committee will each serve for a renewable term as well. They will meet twice every five years to discuss the merits of elite players that have slipped through the cracks.

According to the Hall of Fame, voting set to begin in 2017. So presumably, we will have our first voting process at the winter meetings this coming December in Orlando, Fla.

Voting can only take place when there is a 75-percent quorum (12 of 16 members). In the event a quorum isn’t reached, there is an allowance for voting via conference call.

Short Stop, Alan Trammell – Detroit Tigers

Alan Trammell is one of the biggest snubs in the history of the game. I know there is fervent debate about Pete Rose, but unfortunately, he’s banned from baseball. So are the PED players, in a round-about way.

Trammell was a career Tiger having played the entirety of his career in Detroit. A career that spanned 20 major league seasons. These were 20, mostly bright, seasons as well. Had Trammell not had the break down at the end of his career, he would most likely be in already. Still, it’s a shame to see arguably the best short stop of the 1980’s, not enshrined in Cooperstown.

Of the three Hall of Fame short stops that would be classified in the Modern Era (Yount/Ripken/Smith), Trammell (52.6) has a higher WAR than all but Yount (55.1) throughout the decade of the 1980’s. It should be noted, however, that Yount switched to center field full-time in 1986.

It’s not just WAR in Trammell’s case though that shows his greatness. We’re talking about a player that not only posted a (70.4) WAR, we’re talking about an all-around elite player. We’re talking about a six-time All-Star. We’re talking about a four-time Gold Glove winner.

Trammell was a fine hitter, though not known for his power he hit a (.285) clip in his 20 professional seasons. That’s not bad, in fact, it’s the same career average as Robin Yount.

The Tiger legend was also great when the moments were biggest. In the 1984 postseason, Trammell went 13-for-31 in his eight playoff starts. In case you are wondering, that’s an average (.419). However, Trammell saved his best for the World Series in ’84. He hit a blistering (.450) with two homers and six RBI on his way to winning World Series MVP.

Put Trammell in already.

Catcher, Ted Simmons – St. Louis Cardinals

Ted Simmons is one of the greatest catchers that has ever played the game. He still ranks in the top five is several offensive categories after retiring almost 30 years ago. I would go much further in depth on this legend, but I recently laid bare the case for Ted Simmons just days ago.

Modern Era ballot offers renewed hope

Robin Yount was the only short stop with a better WAR rating than Alan Trammell in the 1980’s. (Photo courtesy of: baseballhall.org)

What should be mentioned is that Simmons, a (.285) hitter, was the first catcher to hit 400+ career doubles, and still ranks second in RBI all-time among catchers. That’s impressive no matter which way a person looks at it.

With each passing year, Simmons’ career continues to look better and better. Like a fine wine, it’s time to pop the cork on this fine vintage. Ted Simmons deserves the call to Cooperstown.

Read the case for Ted Simmons here!

Marvin Miller – Former MLBPA Union Head

Marvin Miller wasn’t a player, but his impact on the game of baseball was immense. Miller, an economist by trade, became the first head of the Major League Baseball Players Association in 1966.

In 1968, Miller successfully lead the first negotiation of a collective bargaining agreement between players and owners. As a result, the minimum salary was raised from $7,000 to $10,000 over the seasons of 1968 and 1969.

Perhaps the biggest battle Marvin Miller fought while head of the MLBPA, was the challenge to what was known as the reserve clause. Under the reserve clause, players had no rights to pursue better financial offers from other teams. In effect, the owners of major league franchises held all the power. Under the reserve clause, players were bound to a team as “property” and could be sold, released, or traded on the whim of the owner.

Enter Curt Flood.

During the 1969 season, Curt Flood was locked in a battle with Cardinals owner August Busch over a dispute of a $10,000 raise. As a three-time All-Star, and seven-time Gold Glove winner, Flood was right in thinking he was worth more. However, because of rocking the boat, Flood was traded to Philadelphia at season’s end. Presumably as punishment.

Flood denied the trade, and making a long story short, ended up suing MLB over the legality of the reserve clause. A case he would lose, but would lay the ground work for others in his wake. Flood sacrificed his career for those that came after him. I wonder how many of us would be so principled in that same situation.

Miller’s legacy

Modern Era ballot offers renewed hope

Curt Flood, along with Marvin Miller, reshaped the financial aspect of MLB. (Photo courtesy of: The Atlantic)

In 1974, Miller won a landmark case on behalf of the MLBPA. Due to a missed annuity payment, owed to Catfish Hunter, by A’s owner Charlie Finley an arbitrator ruled that Hunter was fee to sign with any team of his choosing. Thanks to Marvin Miller, free agency in baseball was born when Hunter signed a five-year deal with the Yankees.

For the first time a player had all the negotiating leverage to get the maximum financial return out of his skill set.

Also in 1974, Miller successfully convinced two pitchers to play out their 1975 seasons without signing a contract. It was then that these players challenged MLB by filing grievances with the league. The case was heard by arbitrator Peter Seitz, who ultimately sided with pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally.

Though the fallout from this case sparked widespread collusion against many of the pioneers of free agency in the 1970s, Miller perhaps changed the game in more ways than any player ever has on the field. After all, Miller fought for free agency, led the MLBPA through three labor stoppages and oversaw average salaries rise from $19,000 in 1966, to $326,000 by the time he stepped away from the union in 1982.

Miller, who passed away in 2012, always blasted the Hall of Fame for colluding against his inclusion in those hallowed halls. Maybe the Modern Baseball Committee will finally give this man his just desserts. Even if it does have to come posthumously.

 

(feature photo courtesy of: Sporting News)

 

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Ted Simmons deserves Cooperstown

Ted Simmons deserves Cooperstown

With the World Series having been settled, Houstonians prepare to honor their championship winning team. For the fans in Houston, all the talk will be on the greatness that this season has produced. For the rest of us it’s time to warm ourselves around the hot stove, and talk about all things past, present and future. Yes, now’s the time to talk about why Ted Simmons deserves Cooperstown.

As we move forever into the future, it’s hard to look back sometimes at those “less glamorous” items from the past. Catcher Ted Simmons is just one of those items that seems to have lost its shine through the years. How sad. The former Cardinals, Brewers and Braves player deserves to stand on that stage in Cooperstown and talk about what it means to be a Hall of Famer.

There has been much written about the likes of Alan Trammell, one of the greatest Detroit Tigers to don the uniform, but Ted Simmons is probably one of the greatest players you don’t realize was great. Simmons’ numbers hold up to this day, nearly 30 years after he played his last professional game. His numbers aren’t just good, they’re great. I would say, they are Hall of Fame great.

The BBWA has made a huge mistake by not admitting Simmons to the Hall when they had their chance. In fact, I wonder how it could possibly be that Simmons only garnered 3.7 percent of the vote in his bellwether year on the ballot. It’s quite mind boggling to be frankly honest. Especially when considering all his peers are in the Hall of Fame.

For Simmons, affectionately known to his fans as Simba, being frozen out of the Hall of Fame is a nightmare that needs to end.

Simmons’ WAR and JAWS ratings

Ted Simmons deserves Cooperstown

Ted Simmons putting on his Cardinal red jacket while be formally inducted into the St. Louis Cardinals team Hall of Fame. (Photo courtesy of: CBS St. Louis/Bill Greenblatt/UPI)

As someone who was brought up in the pre-money ball era, it has taken time to adjust to the advanced metrics of modern day analysis. I see their usefulness, but there isn’t a ton to be gleaned from them that you can’t glean from a comprehensive analysis of the traditional stats, but I digress.

The WAR rating system is just a quicker way to get to the nuts and bolts of a player’s value. Instead of pouring over stat line after stat line of data, it is much faster to take the numbers and plug them into a handy formula that weights each category appropriately. Much to the credit of Jamesian statistics, these types of stats have made it easier to gauge a player’s individual worth compared to his positional peers.

In the case of Ted Simmons his WAR, 7-year peak WAR and JAWS ratings stand him in good stead. It’s also the jumping off point for arguing that Simmons should be enshrined in Cooperstown. So, where does Simmons rate?

In WAR, Ted Simmons ranks 12th among all catchers with a solid (50.1) rating. Take into consideration that the average HoF catcher has a (53.4) career WAR, and it seems like splitting hairs to say that Simmons’ career WAR isn’t good enough. We’re talking about a difference of (3.3) Wins Above Replacement over the length of a career.

Considering that Simmons is one of only 12 catchers with a WAR rating over (50), it makes little sense that he’s not already enshrined in Cooperstown. All other catchers that amassed a 50+ career WAR rating are in the Hall of Fame, except for the still active Joe Mauer.

But it gets even better for Simmons’ case when accounting for both his 7-year peak WAR, and his JAWS ratings. Starting with Simba’s 7-year peak WAR (34.6), he’s slightly above the average HoF catcher in that category. The average 7-year peak WAR for all HoF catchers is (34.4), making Simmons just your average HoF caliber catcher. Nothing more, nothing less.

Simmons’ JAWS rating of (42.9), which is a combination of both a player’s WAR and 7-year peak WAR, sits just off the average of all HoF catchers (43.9). So, regardless of how you view Ted Simmons, what you can’t argue with is the notion that he’s one of the all-time greats behind the plate.

It’s a crime against baseball that a player that ranks 12th in WAR, 12th in 7-year peak WAR and 11th in JAWS at his position all-time, doesn’t have a bust in Cooperstown. Simmons resides at, or very near, the average HoF numbers in each of these three categories.

Simmons at the plate

If advanced metrics aren’t your thing, that’s ok. A comprehensive look at the traditional state lines will tell you that Simmons is still worthy of the Hall call.

Let’s just start with games played. Simmons to this day, still ranks third in games played all-time. He also ranks third in both plate appearances (9,685) and at-bats (8,680). This shows that Simmons was a guy you could count on to be healthy, and ready to rock and roll every day, for the better part of 20 years.

Ted Simmons deserves Cooperstown

Ted Simmons as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers. (Photo courtesy of: Rich Pilling/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Simmons also ranks sixth in runs scored (1,074), making him one of only 10 catchers to surpass (1,000) runs scored for a career. Jason Kendall is the only other catcher in this category that isn’t in the Hall of Fame. Everyone else that achieved this feat is included in Cooperstown.

Now we get into the real meat and potatoes of the matter. In hits, Simmons, still ranks second all-time (2,472), behind only Ivan Rodriquez’s (2,844). That means, when Simmons retired after the 1988 season, he was the all-time hits leader for catchers. A record that stood for 19 years until Rodriquez bested Simmons’ in hits during the 2007 season.

If that doesn’t do it for you, then let’s talk about doubles. Simmons was the first catcher ever to hit over 400 career doubles. He finished with a whopping (483) two-baggers in his 21-season career. Simmons remained the all-time doubles champion for catchers, until again bested by Rodriquez in 2007. Keep in mind that when Simmons retired in ’88, Carlton Fisk was the next closest to him in doubles at (346). It wasn’t until the 1991 season that Fisk finally joined Ted Simmons in the 400-double club.

Simmons was also a (.285) career hitter, which is identical to Yogi Berra’s career average at the plate. However, very few catchers can boast a prolific strike out ratio like Simmons’. He struck out an average of once every 12.5 at-bats for his career, which is phenomenal. Simmons also walked 1.23 times to every time he struck out. This is the hallmark of a HoF caliber hitter folks.

If all this isn’t enough for you to digest, Simmons still ranks second in RBI for a catcher with (1,389). Who’s better than Simmons in this category? Only Yogi Berra, and his (1,430) RBI’s are better than Simmons’ mark. Surprisingly, Simmons knocked in more runs than the legendary Johnny Bench’s (1,376). That’s some exclusive company if I do say so myself.

Simmons’ bat alone should have been enough to get him into Cooperstown. Especially when you realize that when he retired in 1988, he was the all-time leader in games played, plate appearance, at-bats, hits and doubles.

Ted Simmons deserves Cooperstown

It’s hard to say where we go in the case of Ted Simmons from this point. Thus far, there isn’t exactly a fire here. Certainly, the Veterans Committee will debate Alan Trammell’s case long before they will Ted Simmons’ case.

Ted Simmons deserves Cooperstown

Ted Simmons putting in work behind the plate, this man deserves a better historical fate. (Photo courtesy of: bestsportsphotos.com)

One of the bugaboos about Ted Simmons is that he didn’t win a gold glove at catcher. However, there can be only one winner each season. Going up against the Red’s 10-time Gold Glove winning catcher, Johnny Bench, Ted Simmons was probably never going to win that award. To Simmons’ credit though, he had an arguable case for the award in 1976. Johnny Bench edged out Simmons for a Gold Glove in ’76 by the slimmest of margins.

Simmons was a competent defender. He was good, but not great, a point that I will readily concede. But the facts remain, Simmons’ bat should have been enough to catapult him into baseball immortality.

Let’s face it, Simmons was a Mike Piazza style of catcher long before Piazza even came around. Although Simmons does have a superior dWAR (4.7) to Piazza’s (1.0). It’s for this reason, that Simmons gets dogged by the BBWA, because it surely isn’t his bat. Simmons’ bat is sound and worthy of all the pomp and circumstance that comes along with being a Hall of Famer.

It’s time for baseball fans to band together to fix this injustice. In Ted Simmons’ case, the Veterans Committee remains his only lifeline to the Hall. However, they don’t vote players in every year.

It’s time to apply the pressure folks.

 

(feature photo courtesy of: Sports Illustrated)

 

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Knizner

Five early predictions for the National League offseason

The 2017 World Series has come to a close, and the Houston Astros are champions for the first time in franchise history. That means it is time to look forward to next season as we will be without baseball until the spring. This ought to be an exciting offseason due to a star studded free agent class, especially in the outfield.

Not only are there a lot of good free agents, but this ought to be an interesting winter on the trade market. There are some big names floating around that could shake up the whole league. With that being said, here are five early predictions for the 2017 offseason.

The Los Angeles Dodgers sign Jake Arrieta

The Dodgers are coming off a tough World Series loss against the Astros. The front office knew that 2017 was a prime year to break their 30-year drought since the start. Now that it didn’t happen and a large part of their roster still in tact, they will look to push even harder next year.

National League offseason

The Dodgers may look elsewhere for help after Darvish’s collapse in the World Series. (Photo from Newsweek)

Yu Darvish is a free agent now (which may be a relief for the Dodgers after his World Series performance), and Los Angeles is looking to bolster their rotation. Jake Arrieta may be the best starting option on the market after his proven track record in the postseason and reliable arm in the regular season.

 

He won’t come cheap though. The Dodgers already have the highest payroll in the league, but Magic Johnson and company are surely not going to remain complacent after falling short this year. The Dodgers’ starting rotation and bullpen are what separated them from the rest of the league this season, but it may have been what costed them a championship.

A Kershaw-Arrieta duo would look to accomplish what a Kershaw-Darvish pair couldn’t. Darvish was successful in the NLDS and NLCS. However, he could not manage to put much together in the World Series. Arrieta has proven himself in those situations, so it would make sense for him to give the Dodgers that final push.

The St. Louis Cardinals get a reliable bat

The Cardinals had a glaring issue all season long, and that was their lack of an impact bat in the middle of their lineup. The problem is that St. Louis already has a crowded outfield full of players that they seem dedicated to, due to their high-value in their homegrown players. However, it is time for them to make a move for a big bat.

National League offseason

Christian Yelich would be tough for the Cardinals to get as Miami highly values him. (Photo from CBS Sports)

Derek Jeter and the Miami Marlins are looking to cut payroll big time under new ownership. The one name that sticks out immediately is Giancarlo Stanton. St. Louis is not known for taking on such large contracts, even though Stanton is exactly what the Cardinals need.

If the Cardinals do end up trading with the Marlins, it would most likely be for Christian Yelich. Yelich is much more affordable and is under team control until 2022, which is very appealing. He also would provide a solid 3.0-4.0 WAR every year out.

What the Cardinals most likely will accomplish though is getting a corner infielder. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are both hitting the free agent market, and both would fit nicely into the lineup. What is important to keep in mind though is the Cardinals have an eye on the 2018 free agent market as well, and Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson will be available then. Expect the Cardinals to especially push for Machado next year, or even look to trade for him this offseason.

The Diamondbacks will retain J.D. Martinez

National League offseason

J.D. Martinez was one of the hottest hitters in the league after being traded. (Photo from Detroit Free Press)

J.D. Martinez was traded to the Diamondbacks from the Tigers during the summer. He thrived in Arizona, hitting a monstrous 29 home runs and hitting .302. The Los Angeles Angels have already announced that Justin Upton, another Detroit Tigers outfielder traded at the deadline, will be signed through the 2022 season. Now some are wondering if Martinez will do the same and stay in Arizona, or seek greener pastures elsewhere.

Martinez announced on Wednesday that he is switching to contract negotiator extraordinaire Scott Boras. At first glance, this seems like it is a move to negotiate with other teams, but he can still be very helpful in discussions with Arizona’s front office.

In a conversation with azcentralsports.com, Martinez expressed his desire in staying with Arizona long term. Being next to names like Paul Goldschmidt and AJ Pollock makes him a good fit. Martinez may also feel it is the right place to stay after such a successful two months in the desert.

The Diamondbacks will have to give Martinez a large chunk of change in order for him to stay, but it may be what they have to do in order to compete with the reigning NL Champs in the West.

The Cubs will sign RHP Alex Cobb

With Jake Arrieta most likely leaving Chicago due to his high price tag, Alex Cobb could potentially come in and provide a solid third starter role behind Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks. Cobb has spent six years in the league and has had at least 20 starts in four of those years. Other than his 2016 campaign where he was sidelined most of the year for an elbow injury, he has been an extremely reliable pitcher for Tampa Bay.

Cobb is no Arrieta, but Cobb may be one of the better affordable pitchers on the market this offseason. Lance Lynn is a similar pitcher that could fit in Chicago. However, Cobb’s relationship with Joe Maddon and new Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey could have a big impact on decisions for both sides.

Out of all the potential offseason moves that could happen, this one makes the most sense.

The Los Angeles Dodgers will trade for Giancarlo Stanton

As mentioned earlier, Derek Jeter and the Marlins are trying to cut payroll as much as possible in order to fully engage in a rebuild. Stanton has come out and said that he does not want to go through that process again. He is ready to win now.

National League offseason

Stanton may be on the Dodgers’ radar, as trading for him would make sense for all parties involved. (Photo from CBS Sports)

The Dodgers, despite having the highest payroll, have some money they can spend. Stanton has the most expensive sports contract in the world, so this would be a whole lot to take on. Even with the high payroll, the Dodgers don’t break the bank on one player too often. They are an organization that likes to spread their payroll out between many good players. However, this player is worth it.

Stanton also has the right to veto any trade he doesn’t like. The perfect fit may be in Los Angeles though. He is a California boy who grew up in the Los Angeles area. He also wants to win, as he has not done that much in his MLB career with the Marlins. It would be unlikely if a deal were to be put in front of him that he could deny such a tempting offer.

The Dodgers have a couple of solid prospects in their system with RHP Walker Buehler and Alex Verdugo, who rank 10th and 23rd in the MLB’s best prospects rankings. Those two players, along with the Dodgers taking on the daunting contract, should be plenty to acquire the 2017 home run king. The question is if the Dodgers are willing to put that high of an investment into Stanton, who only put in his third full season of work this year.

There is a lot of upside with this player though. He turns 28 next week, which means he is at the beginning of the hitter’s prime (27-32). Acquiring Stanton, along with signing Jake Arrieta, would make the Dodgers an even bigger juggernaut to fear. One thing for sure though is L.A. is hungry for a World Series after watching the Astros win it on their home turf.

 

Featured image by Getty Images  

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Game five

World Series Game 5 perfectly summarizes baseball today

Something special happened on Sunday night in Houston. Game five of the World Series was one of the most memorable sporting events in recent memory. After game two in Los Angeles, many thought that it would be the pinnacle of the series. In the year of the home run though, nothing is safe.

Home runs

World Series Game five

Altuve has been leading the way in power this postseason despite his size (USA Today).

What has been heavily talked about this year is all of the balls that have been leaving the park in 2017. The MLB set the record for most home runs hit in a season this year. They didn’t just break it though, they demolished it.

The previous record for home runs in a year was set in 2000 when there were 5,693 home runs hit. 2000 was also around the time of peak steroid use in baseball, and it was facing an epidemic. Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Alex Rodriguez were all crushing bombs.

What is different about this season is that there were only five players who hit more than 40 home runs. In 2000, there were 16 players who hit more than 40.

What does this mean? Well it shows that there has been a league-wide surge in homers in 2017, rather than a handful of players getting more home runs. We are not here to speculate as to why this is happening though, we are here to talk about the intense fifth game of the World Series.

There were two big records broken in game five. The Dodgers and the Astros already broke the record for most homers hit in a series with 22, and they also broke the record for most hit in a single game with seven.

Second longest game ever

World Series Game five

It will be interesting to see what Manfred will do when it comes to pace of play (CBS Sports)

Game five was the second longest World Series game ever, trailing only game three of the 2005 World Series, which also included the Houston Astros. Game three of the 2005 World Series lasted 14 innings though, while game five this year was only 24 minutes shorter in four less innings. Meaning, game five averaged 31 minutes per inning while the longest World Series game ever averaged 24 minutes per inning. This shows the issue with pace of play facing baseball today.

Personally, I did not want the game on Sunday to be over though. When Brian McCann pulled a ball that looked to have walk-off distance foul, I was almost disappointed to think the game would be over. Alex Bregman ended up finishing the game two at bats later in stellar fashion which was great to see, but I was still hungry for more.

This puts Rob Manfred and the MLB in an awkward position. Manfred has expressed interest in installing new ways to shorten baseball games. However, we are getting some of the most exciting games we have seen in awhile this year thanks to the long ball and surge in offense. This is a classic case of not being able to have your cake and eat it too.

Top dogs battling it out

World Series Game five

This is the first time in a long time we have seen the two best teams from the regular season in the Fall Classic (MLB)

Besides the Minnesota Twins, there were not a whole lot of underdogs this season. Every division winner was the team that most experts picked to win at the beginning of the year, so there were not many surprises.

What this series has shown though is that there is no clear better team between the two best. Houston and Los Angeles cemented their title as the best teams in baseball with 100+ win seasons and making to the Fall Classic. If you were to ask most experts at the halfway point of the season, the most common answer you would get for who would be playing in the World Series would be these two teams.

Game five demonstrated that both teams are fighting tooth and nail for the championship, and that they are very evenly matched. Houston was down 4-0 to Clayton Kershaw in the fourth inning, a pitcher that dominated them in the first game of the series. Things were already starting to look bleak for them.

Yuli Gurriel and the Astros battled back though, tying the game at four in the bottom of the fourth. The fun didn’t last for long though as Cody Bellinger hit a three-run home run of his own in the top of the fifth. The future was looking bleak for the Astros again, but in the bottom of the inning, Altuve smashed another three-run home run. When it was all said and done there were nine lead changes/ties, which made for a heart stopping game.

One for the ages

Fivethirtyeight.com did an article about the most exciting World Series games ever based on change in win probability. The only game that tops this one is game six of the 2011 World Series between the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals. Games like this don’t come around nearly that often though, so don’t expect for your heart to race as much as it did on Sunday for sometime.

 

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Edge

2017 World Series: Who has the edge going forward?

Coming off of a thrilling game two in Los Angeles, the Astros are going to look to carry their momentum through their time in Houston. An offense that was shut down by Kershaw and the Dodgers in game one really turned things around by exploding for four home runs and taking an epic game away from Los Angeles.

Houston’s offense is back

2017 World Series

Altuve and Correa have kept Houston in the thick of things (LA Daily News)

The Astros offense has had cold stretches this postseason. During the ALCS, Houston was only able to score nine runs in the first five games. There was reason to be worried after game one of the World Series as well, when they only had one run on three hits off of Clayton Kershaw.

Houston was somehow able to prove in game two that Kenley Jansen is touchable after slumping for a bit. Jansen was one of the most successful closers in the regular season, only blowing one save and giving up just five home runs. Marwin Gonzalez’s home run off an 0-2 count against Jansen in the ninth may be a point we look back at and say that is when the Astros took over.

Each of the Astros big three (Springer, Altuve and Correa) proved why they should be feared in game two. They are going to look to ride that feeling in Houston in order to get ahead of Los Angeles. The Dodgers pitching may still be a cause for concern though.

The Dodgers pitching is still dominate

2017 World Series

Kershaw may have had his best postseason performance in game one (Photo by Washington Times)

What Houston still has to look forward to is facing Yu Darvish in game three. This is an interesting matchup considering Darvish pitched in the same division as the Astros since 2012. Darvish has had Houston’s number, as a collective they have a .190 batting average against the Dodgers summer acquisition.

The one hitter to keep an eye on is George Springer. Springer is 6-18 against Darvish in his career, and two of those hits have gone for home runs. Other than Springer though, the Astros have looked lack luster against Darvish.

Game three will be a very important game for the Astros especially. Although Alex Wood is currently tabbed as the starter for the Dodgers in game four, there is still a chance that Kershaw could make the start if they lose game two. Although Kershaw could have probably pitched all the way through game one, Dave Roberts made the right call by pulling him after seven innings. Keeping Kershaw’s pitch count low gives the Dodgers the opportunity to use him in game four if need be. That way, if the series goes to seven games Kershaw can start the final game with decent rest.

Who has the edge?

The Astros will be pitching Lance McCullers Jr. and Charlie Morton over the weekend. Both only have limited exposure to the Dodgers, but in that limited exposure the Dodgers have had their number. A.J. Hinch may be looking to go to his bullpen early in games three and four in Houston.

The Los Angeles offense has looked on point this whole postseason. Even without their star shortstop in the NLCS, they still managed to put up some crooked numbers against the Cubs. They weren’t able to beat the Astros on Wednesday night, but that was more on the bullpen rather than any inability by the offense.

After George Springer’s thrilling go-ahead home run in Los Angeles in game two, it is hard to bet against the Astors for the rest of this series. It will be a tough fought battle the whole way through. However, the Dodgers bullpen will most likely not unfoil as much as it did. It is October, so anything can happen. It is hard to see them giving up two leads like that again though.

Based on performance this postseason, the Dodgers have the edge on their pitching staff as well as their offense. On paper Houston may have the sexier lineup with Springer, Altuve and Correa. Los Angeles has remained consistent through the postseason though, and with Kershaw most likely getting two more starts in the World Series it will be difficult for Houston to get past them. The series will most likely go back to California, but the Dodgers should be favored to take home the Commissioner’s trophy in the end.

 

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Jose Oquendo

St. Louis has brought back its secret weapon

The Cardinals announced this week that Willie McGee will be joining their coaching staff. The 1985 NL MVP has not had a specific role announced on the staff yet, but it does make for a fine addition to the club. The Cardinals had lots of mistakes on the bases early in the 2017 season, but McGee should be able to help relieve that.

The addition was exciting for Cardinal nation. However, the fans were in for an even bigger treat shortly after. The team announced that they will be bringing back former third base coach Jose Oquendo, and the fans rejoiced.

Oquendo will bring back the old Cardinal Way

Jose Oquendo was a key cog in the Cardinals coaching staff that occupied the dugout for such a long time. Tony La Russa, Dave Duncan and Oquendo all were at the forefront of the Cardinals’ success for nearly two decades. Since they have all left, St. Louis has struggled to find its identity that fans have become so custom to.

Jose Oquendo

Mike Matheny is going into his seventh season as manager, making him a seasoned vet. (Photo from Viva El Birdos)

Some of the current Cardinals players have suggested that new guys were not embracing the “Cardinal Way”. What this means is they were getting lazy on the field and at times would look like a minor league team.

Oquendo had been working with minor league players in Jupiter, Florida in the Cardinals’ system the past couple of years while he was rehabilitating his knee. His impact was evident by the success of minor league players at the big league level. Names like Tommy Pham, Jose Martinez and Luke Weaver are evidence of success of coaching in the minor leagues. This is because the guys that started in the minors in 2017 were the best players on the Cardinals when they came up.

What this hire does is bring stability back to the Cardinals coaching staff. In the middle of 2017, the front office shuffled the coaching staff to show that they were serious about getting the club back into shape. Oquendo provides that presence back into the clubhouse that will get the attention of everyone.

Not only will the players be impacted by this, but it puts Mike Matheny in an interesting position.

Oquendo wanted the managerial job in 2012

After the Cardinals won a historic World Series in 2011, Tony La Russa made a surprise announcement that he was leaving the skipper role. Not only that, but long-time pitching coach Dave Duncan also announced he would be leaving the club.

Jose Oquendo

Oquendo has experience managing the Puerto Rico national team. (Photo from Zimbio)

These departures left a real gap in leadership that the Cardinals had for a long time. Oquendo was sticking around though. He has been coaching the club since 1999, so he would be the perfect candidate right? Former Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny was instead given the job. This made many fans wonder if it was the right call to overlook the long-time third base coach.

Now that Matheny has had six full years as manager, we have had a good look of what he is capable of. In his first three years, the Cardinals were able to reach the NLCS twice and the World Series once. Pretty solid for a first time manager.

Since then, the Cardinals have only won a single playoff game. This is cause for concern because this is when there is very little remnants of the old coaching staff of La Russa and Duncan. Since Oquendo left the big league club in 2015, they have not made the postseason.

There may be cause for concern if your name is Mike Matheny. Next season may be a test to see who the Cardinals skipper should really be. St. Louis has not missed the postseason three consecutive years since 1997-1999. Matheny may be on the hot seat if signs show they will not be able to make the playoffs again. Oquendo’s name would also be a strong possibility to take over that role if the dominoes fall that way.

Will the hire lead to wins?

Over the past two seasons, the Cardinals have lacked discipline, and it has shown on the field. Silly mistakes and untimely errors have cost them the chance to get back into the postseason. This is evident through the fact they had the second most one-run losses in the regular season.

Oquendo is the perfect guy for getting the young Cardinals talent back into shape and improving on an already talented team. Look for them to seriously contest with the Cubs next year in the central.

 

Featured image by St. Louis Post Dispatch

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greatest world series ever played

Greatest World Series ever played

When the first pitch of the 2017 World Series is thrown out Oct. 24 at Dodger Stadium, it will mark the 113th installment of baseball’s fall classic. Only one World Series, however, can be dubbed the greatest World Series ever played.

For the fans in Houston and Los Angeles, their focus won’t be on this series being an all-time classic. Their primary focus for the immediate future will be on winning at least four of the possible seven games that remain. Right now, the glory of a championship is first and foremost.

The rest of baseball’s fandom is just looking to be enthralled. We’re looking for hotly contested games that remain up for grabs into the final innings. We’re looking for immaculate pitching, we’re looking for clutch two-out hits and we’re looking for spectacular game saving glove work in the field. In short, we’re looking for the proverbial barn burner.

With 112 World Series already on record, there have been some wild match-ups throughout time. Perhaps no match-up has offered more excitement to baseball fans of all stripes than 1991’s World Series, pitting the Atlanta Braves against the Minnesota Twins.

Minnesotans will remember 1991 for two distinct reasons. First, on Oct. 27, 1991 they saw their Minnesota Twins lift the World Series title after seven games. Second, just four days later, the Twin Cities were buried under almost two-feet of snow from an epic Halloween blizzard.

In Atlanta though, 1991 will always be remembered with mixed emotions. The 1991 Braves improved from last place in 1990, to first in 1991. This was also the first year that a World Series was played in Atlanta since the Braves moved from Milwaukee at the end of 1965.

How they arrived

greatest world series ever played

Braves legend, Tom Glavine, tries to channel a little rally hat magic on the road in Minneapolis. (Photo courtesy of: Getty Images)

Speaking of the Braves’ remarkable turnaround, Minnesota also accomplished the same feat. They too finished the season in last place in 1990, only to become AL champions in 1991. It was the first time in MLB history that any team went from “worst to first” let alone having two teams do it in the same season.

For Minnesota, 1991 was the year of the bat. This isn’t to say they couldn’t pitch, but their offense was magnificent. They led the majors in average (.280) and on-base percentage (.344) that year. They also finished second in both slugging (.420) and OPS (.764) making them one of the toughest lineups for opposing pitchers to navigate.

Atlanta’s forte though, was undoubtedly their pitching. The Braves’ pitching was phenomenal in 1991. Tom Glavine, 1991’s NL Cy Young award winner, was the unquestioned leader of the young Atlanta staff. This Braves rotation was young, hungry and devastatingly good.

For the season, Atlanta finished third in team ERA (3.49), third in fewest hits given up and fourth in total runs surrendered. Any fan can plainly see, scratching runs across the plate against this pitching staff was no small task.

The 1991 World Series was more than just excellent pitching versus excellent hitting. This series was a classic match-up of two evenly matched ball clubs. Something had to give, because we all know there can only be one team left standing. That team left standing, in the end, would be the Minnesota Twins.

Minnesota didn’t get to the summit of baseball’s highest mountain without a fight though, and what a fight it was. Atlanta and Minnesota put together a performance for the ages. Culminating in arguably the greatest World Series ever played. This was a World Series filled with spectacular pitching, clutch hitting and wild defensive plays.

The greatest world series ever played

In the pantheon of World Series match-ups, there are several that stand out. For instance, 1960’s classic Pirates and Yankees showdown featured the only walk-off Game 7 homer ever, by the Pirate’s Bill Mazeroski. Braves versus Twins in 1991 rates right up there with the lot of them.

greatest world series ever played

Bill Mazeroski sinks the Yankees with his dramatic walk-off Game 7 World Series home run. (Photo courtesy of: ESPN)

The 1991 World Series offered something for everyone, including one of the most bizarre plays in World Series history. Of course this is referring to Kent Herbek pulling Ron Gant off the bag in the third inning of Game 2. For fans of a certain age in Atlanta, this certainly must still be a sore subject.

Watch the play here!

The Twins and Braves only played two games decided by more than a single run, Game 1 and 5. Minnesota took Game 1 by a score of 5-2 and Atlanta took Game 5, blowing away the Twins 14-5. All other games in the series were one-run affairs.

Extra innings was also a common thread that tied this series together as well. Game 6 and the pivotal Game 7 were two of the three extra inning games. Minnesota would find themselves on the winning side in both of the aforementioned games. The Twins’ only extra inning loss came on a Mark Lemke 12th inning RBI single in Game 3.

For the Twins, legendary Kirby Puckett was the man of Game 6. Puckett’s glove, and then his bat, cemented the win for Minnesota and pushed the series to Game 7.

Puckett seemed to defy the laws of physics, jumping at the wall in left-center to rob Gant of extra bases. Then, in the bottom of the 11th inning, Puckett sent a Charlie Leibrandt offering into the seats for a solo homer. His clutch hit won the game for Minnesota in walk-off fashion, making Game 7 a necessity.

Watch Puckett’s series saving homer here!

Game 7

The deciding game of the 1991 World Series pitted two excellent pitchers at opposite spectrums of their careers. For the Twins, it was 15-year veteran and 1984 World Series champion, Jack Morris. The Braves countered with a future Hall of Famer, 24-year-old, John Smoltz.

greatest world series ever played

1991 World Series MVP and Game 7 winner, Jack Morris, rushes to greet Dan Gladden at home plate. (Photo courtesy of: Pioneer Press/Jean Pieri)

All these two did was lock horns to produce one of the best pitched games in World Series history. Smoltz pitched excellent in Game 7, but wily veteran Jack Morris pitched a magical Game 7. With Morris in command of all his pitches, he put together one of the greatest World Series starts this side of Don Larsen’s perfect game in 1956. Morris went the distance, all 10 innings, to pitch a complete game shutout under immense pressure.

Jack Morris, for his part, swallowed that pressure deep down and used it to breathe fire at the Braves lineup. He gave up seven hits and walked only two hitters in his 10-inning masterpiece. On the back of Morris’ Game 7 exploits, coupled with his Game 1 win and his hard luck no-decision in Game 4, he walked away as World Series MVP.

When Gene Larkin laced a one-out single to left-center in the bottom of the 10th inning, bringing Dan Gladden in for the winning run, it was only fitting that Morris was the first player to welcome him home.

If the showdown between Los Angeles and Houston is half as good as 1991’s World Series, we are in for a treat. Play ball, boys.

 

(feature photo courtesy of: twinkietown.com)

 

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Dodgers Astros World Series

Astros vs Dodgers: Who has the edge?

The matchup we have all been waiting for has finally arrived. The Fall Classic is upon us, pitting the two best teams in baseball against each other. The Dodgers and Astros took two very different routes to get here, but here they both are.

The Dodgers trounced their way to the World Series, posting a 7-1 record so far. Needless to say, the Astros 7-4 record isn’t bad, but they are coming off an emotional seven game series where they struggled to put away a young Yankees squad. So who do you trust in this clash of sabermetric savants? The rested Dodgers or the battle-hardened Astros?

avoiding elimination game drama

Jose Altuve looks to launch the Astros to a World Series title (USA Today).

Lineup

Both of these teams put up spectacular numbers in the regular season. The Astros paced all of baseball in team average (.282), were second in team home runs (238), and lead the major leagues in runs scored (896). They also had a decided lead over the Dodgers in those three major categories. The Dodgers were only 19th best in team average during the regular season (.249), 11th in home runs (221), and 12th in runs scored (770).

Even with this decided advantage in the regular season belonging to the Astros, the Dodgers have shined brightest on the biggest of stages. The Dodgers have average six runs per game this postseason, compared to the Astros four runs per game. But in a seven game series like this, one player can carry an offense.

And the best suited for that behemoth task is the diminutive Jose Altuve. The presumed American League MVP has hit a scorching .400 in the postseason and launched five home runs. The Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig may have Altuve bested in postseason average at .414, but he has done so in only 14 at bats, a far cry from Altuve’s 40. With the amount of firepower in Houston’s lineup, they should be more than able to keep pace with the Dodgers.

Verdict: Astros

Starting Rotation

Dodgers Astros World Series

Dodgers co-ace Yu Darvish has the ability to stymie the astros potent offense (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson).

The biggest deciding factor in Los Angeles has also been the biggest presence on the mound. Clayton Kershaw has been one of the best pitchers of his generation, with a 2.36 career ERA and three Cy Young awards to his name. But what you won’t find on the burly left hander’s possession is a World Series ring. There are some players that blossom under the playoff spotlight, but Kershaw hasn’t been one of them. In fact, he’s wilted to the tune of a 4.40 postseason career ERA. Even so, Kershaw does have a steady stable of starters to rely on to help carry the slack.

Fellow lefty Rich Hill and former Rangers ace Yu Darvish are slated to start Games Two and Three respectively, and have pitched well for the Dodgers in this postseason. Hill has pitched to a 3.00 ERA while Darvish has sparkled with a 1.59 ERA. Those types of numbers will give the Dodgers plenty of chances to win. That is, if they can score.

Justin Verlander has been, bar none, the best pitcher in baseball since the Astros acquired him in August. He cruised through the finish of the regular season, going undefeated in an Astros uniform. And he hasn’t let up yet. In 24.2 IP this postseason, he has a 1.46 ERA, a perfect 4-0 record and has struck out 24 batters. Given that he will be preceded by co-ace Dallas Keuchel (2.60 postseason ERA) in Game One, The Astros have the definite advantage at the top of the rotation. But depth will play a key role in this series. With Cy Young caliber pitchers in the form of Kershaw and Darvish, and the depth of Rich Hill, Alex Wood and Kenta Maeda all able to start for Dave Roberts, the Dodgers have the advantage.

Verdict: Dodgers

Dodgers Astros World Series

Kenley Jansen has posted a stunning 0.00 ERA in the postseason (espn.com).

Bullpen

If you’re going to make a run like the Dodgers and Astros have, you must be able to shut teams down in the late innings. The Dodgers have paced baseball in team ERA this postseason with a 2.28 ERA. That is good enough to lead the next best team (Nationals) by almost a half run per game. The Astros have been markedly worse at preventing runs from scoring, with a 3.79 team ERA.

Even with the team advantage, the Dodgers have the individual advantage as well. Kenley Jansen has pitched eight innings of shutout ball this postseason, as fellow reliever Brandon Morrow has posted a 1.08 ERA in 8.1 innings of work. The Astros flagship ace hasn’t fared nearly as well. Ken Giles has allowed three runs over the past three innings pitched. That does not bode well for an Astros team that may have to rely heavily on him late in critical games.

The wildcard from the mound will be Astros pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. McCullers will start Game Four of the World Series, and could come in as a relief pitcher in Game Seven if needed. He has shown lights-out stuff as of late, and A.J. Hinch could opt to use him in relief after his start. Even so, the Dodgers have the clear advantage in the pen.

Verdict: Dodgers

Prediction

This World Series is shaping up to be one for the ages. As the historically dominant Dodgers look to make a return to glory, the Astros are on the hunt for that elusive first title. But the Astros may have to wait just a little bit longer. The Dodgers are on a postseason run unlike any seen in a long time. And that may just be the deciding factor in this series.

Verdict: Dodgers in six

Feature image by Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press

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